Friday, September 30, 2011

Galatians 6 - Marks of Jesus

Paul's efforts are spent reminding the Galatians that they are saved through the gospel of Jesus Christ and not by the works of the Law. One focus of the letter is circumcision. The Judiazers claimed that only a Law-abiding Jew could be a real Christian. Their real motives were rooted in pride and fear of man (Gal 6:12-13). But Paul says that trying to keep the law is vanity (Gal 5:3-4).

The purpose of this post isn't to delve deeply into the overall message of Galatians (though that would be a very worthy topic), but that context cannot be ignored either. Paul shows how the gospel saves us. It's not by keeping the law but by believing in faith (Gal 5:6). We have been crucified with Christ (Gal 2:20) which makes us a new creation (Gal 6:5, 2 Cor 5:17). Our flesh is dead, so circumcision has no meaning (Gal 5:24).

However, Paul does bear marks in his flesh. He speaks not of his own circumcision--the marks of which he would have as a devout Pharisee. These marks show that he is a disciple of Christ. Because of his bold proclamation, Paul has endured a lifetime's worth of physical abuse. In 2 Corinthians 11 we hear Paul tell the church that he is a man...
with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches (2 Corinthians 11:23-28 ESV).
So to those who preach the mark of the Jew, he can say, "From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus" (Gal 6:17). So rather than accept the mark of the Old Covenant, let's accept the mark of the New Covenant. We are called to take up our cross and follow Jesus. Peter says we grieve and James says to find joy when we meet trials of various kinds. "Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Tim 3:12).

Most of us won't suffer as Paul. Not many will become martyrs, but a hallmark of the Christian's call are persecutions, the marks of Jesus. They show you are set apart in Christ.
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe” (John 20:27).

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